Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Poor first period and special teams sink Maple Leafs as they lose 6-4 to the Canucks
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ four-game losing streak finally ended on Thursday night against the Calgary Flames with a 4-3 win in regulation, and they looked to continue that into Vancouver last night against the Canucks as they continued their four-game road trip.
Despite taking positive steps in their last game and holding onto a lead, coming out victorious against the Flames, the Maple Leafs came out flat last night, allowing the Canucks to skate circles around them for the first five minutes of the game. Vancouver rolled out all four lines within minutes, and Toronto had no answer for them, as they got hemmed in their zone for some time.
Nils Hoglander opened the scoring just 3:06 into the game after a solid shift from the Canucks’ fourth line. Former Maple Leaf Sam Lafferty picked up a secondary assist on the goal, giving him a revenge point against the team that traded him away before the start of the season.
Things didn’t get better for Toronto. The fourth line of the Canucks hopped over the boards again, and Hoglander ripped his second of the night – 14th of the season – over Martin Jones’ right shoulder, doubling his team’s lead just six minutes into the contest.
You’d think things would get better for Toronto as the period aged, and well, kind of, but not really. They were awarded a power play after Nikita Zadorov was whistled for interference, but sadly, their power play looked awful and didn’t score on the man advantage.
With the road team unsuccessful on the power play and not looking like the better team thus far, things got worse for Toronto when Conor Garland ripped his seventh of the season past a sliding Jones, extending his team’s lead to 3-0. The Maple Leafs slowly found their legs toward the final five minutes in the period, but they wrapped up an embarrassing opening 20 minutes.
Toronto entered the first intermission down 3-0 despite outshooting Vancouver 10-9. The shots don’t tell the whole story. The Canucks dominated the Maple Leafs for a good chunk of that period.
Similarly to the second period against the Flames on Thursday night, I’m not sure what was said between periods, but whatever was said seemed to work for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They came out for the second period looking like a different team and were rewarded for their play relatively early in the middle frame.
What looked like an innocent shot from William Nylander seemed to fool Thatcher Demko from distance. After going six games without scoring a goal, Nylander scored his 22nd of the season to cut their deficit to two goals just 4:53 in.
Whether it was their play from the opening puck drop in the middle frame or the Nylander goal to get them on the board, Toronto continued to do what Vancouver did to them in the previous period, and that was skate circles around them. Just two and a half minutes after Nylander scored, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Jake McCabe pulled off a nifty passing pass in the offensive zone, which ended with McCabe potting home his third of the season to get his team within one goal.
With two quick goals for the road team and the Canucks seeming to have no answer for Toronto’s pressure to open the second period, the momentum and advantage were in the Maple Leafs’ favour, and they showed why. Just 54 seconds after McCabe finished a pretty passing play, Nylander shot another puck from distance, and it fooled Demko yet again, as he scored his second of the night – 23rd of the season – tying the game at three just 8:19 into the frame, and giving himself 200 goals in his career.
With three goals on the board after going down 3-0 early on, they continued to put the pressure on in the Canucks’ zone, looking to build on their lead. They thought they had taken the lead with a Bertuzzi goal, but it was immediately waved off due to him kicking/kneeing the puck past the goal line.
After what was a fantastic period for Toronto, they later got hemmed in their zone for what seemed like the first time all period, and the Canucks made them pay for it with Conor Garland scoring his second of the night, taking the one-goal lead with one minute remaining.
Toronto entered the second intermission down 4-3 despite outshooting Vancouver 27-15.
It was a tremendous effort from Toronto in the second period to get back in the game before giving up a late goal with a minute left. But they quickly answered to tie things back up early in the final period while on the penalty kill. Mitch Marner blocked a point shot and seconds later intercepted the puck to spring himself on a breakaway, scoring his 20th of the season and tying the game at four.
Unfortunately, after scoring a short-handed goal to tie things back up, Toronto’s parade to the penalty box continued with Max Domi and Mark Giordano taking cross-checking penalties three and a half minutes apart, sending Vancouver’s power play back on the ice. After killing off the first power play to begin the period, things didn’t repeat themselves, as the Canucks scored two more goals on the man advantage, giving them a 6-4 lead just over the midway point of the period.
From the sixth goal for Vancouver until the final horn, it was just Toronto applying pressure, looking for another answer to get within one goal and ultimately tie things up again. But Thatcher Demko stood on his head in the third period, keeping the 6-4 lead intact. The final horn went, and despite registering 46 shots (18 in the second period and 19 in the third period), the Maple Leafs dropped another game, falling to 1-4-1 in their last six. Although it was a solid effort from Toronto after falling behind 3-0 and looking like the much better team for the final two periods, it doesn’t matter when you lose another game. The feeling would’ve been different if they hadn’t entered last night’s game with one win in their previous five games.
Who stood out:
Well, I’ll tell you who didnt look good last night: Martin Jones, the penalty kill (1/3) and the power play (0/5).
Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about who had a good game despite coming out on the losing side for the fifth time in six games. I thought the top six was good. Nylander bumped his slump with a two-goal performance to get his team back in the game and eventually the tying goal in the second period. And although he extended his pointless streak to seven games, Tavares was in and around the net again last night but continues to struggle to find his way on the scoresheet. He recorded six shots and, according to Naturalstattrick.com, finished with a 1.98 xGF in all situations, good enough for third on the team.
Matthews also had many chances, but after scoring his fourth hat-trick of the season against the Flames, he struggled to find the back of the net in this one. He managed to get seven shots on the net, but as I said earlier in the article, Demko stood on his head, especially in the third period, denying the Maple Leafs to get back in it.
Speaking of someone with many chances but couldn’t find the net, Tyler Bertuzzi continues to be unlucky in his first season with Toronto. With just six goals on the year, he is shooting a career-low 7.1%. It’s not for a lack of trying. If you watch him out there on the ice, he is getting many chances to score, but he’s hitting posts, crossbars, getting blocked or getting stopped in tight by goalies.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game tonight as they close out their four-game road trip in Seattle against the Kraken for the second and final meeting this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 9:00 pm ET/6:00 pm PT.
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